House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says NCAA basketball teams that are not on track to graduate at least half of their players should not be allowed to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Duncan used to play basketball himself. He says his personal experience is what is driving his call for the measures.

Duncan wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post:

As a kid on the South Side of Chicago who loved basketball, I got to see the best and the worst of college sports. I spent time on the court with inner-city players who had been used and dumped by their universities. When the ball stopped bouncing, they struggled to find work and had difficult lives. Some died early. The dividing line for success was between those who went to college and got their degrees, and those who did not. If a team fails to graduate even half of its players, how serious are the institution and coach about preparing their student-athletes for life?

Duncan wrote that 10 men's teams in the NCAA basketball tournament are not on track to graduate more than half their players.

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On Monday I drove a couple hours to see a high school basketball game in Vicksburg, Michigan – about 20 minutes south of Kalamazoo.  The Class C regional semi-final pitted Schoolcraft against Fennville.  Both schools were undefeated – but that wasn’t why I was going.

Two weeks ago Fennville lost its star center, Wes Leonard, just minutes after the last regular season contest. Leonard had made the game winning shot, and the Fennville fans rushed the court and hoisted their hero onto their shoulders.

Then, just seconds later, the truly unthinkable happened: Wes Leonard’s enlarged heart gave out, and he collapsed, right on the court.  Before midnight, the town pastor emerged from the hospital to tell the crowd Wes Leonard had died.

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President Obama orders review of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

In light of the unfolding crisis at the crippled nuclear reactors in Japan, U.S. officials say they will review the safety of the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S.  There are four nuclear reactors operating in Michigan (Fermi 2, Palisades, and D.C. Cook Unit 1 and Unit 2).

From the Associated Press:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a "comprehensive review" of the safety of all U.S. nuclear plants following what U.S. officials are calling the dangerous and complicated situation at Japan's damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

President Barack Obama took the rare step and called upon the independent commission to conduct the review.

"When we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people," Obama said Thursday.

The nuclear industry agreed a review is a good idea. Anthony Pietrangelo of the Nuclear Energy Institute said they will look at the events that unfolded in Japan and "we will learn from them, we will get that operating experience, we will apply it and try to make our units even safer than they are today."

GM Halts Production at truck plant after parts shortage from Japan

Tremors are being felt in the auto industry after the Japanese earthquake.

From the Associated Press:

A shortage of parts from Japan will force General Motors Co. to halt production at its pickup plant in Shreveport, La., next week, the company said Thursday.

It's the first time a U.S.-based automaker will stop production in North America over parts shortages caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toyota Motor Co. and Subaru have already slowed North American production to conserve parts that they normally import from that nation.

Reuters reported earlier this week that some automakers in Europe might be affected as well.

Tough night for MSU at NCAA Tourney

The Michigan State men's basketball team lost last night to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament 78-76.

The Spartans pulled close at the end of the game after trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half.

The Lansing State Journal:

"We got off to such a bad start," a red-eyed Izzo said afterward. "And yet I'm so proud of these guys. They've been knocked down so many times this year."

Down two with the ball, MSU senior guard Kalin Lucas was called for traveling with 0.2 of a second left on the clock, erasing a late chance at a halfcourt shot to win it.

After struggling through his worst offensive night in several weeks, Lucas got MSU within three points with a free throw and 42.2 seconds left. Lucas missed the second free throw that would have cut it to two.

The men's basketball teams at the University of Michigan and Oakland University play today.

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U.S. has bleaker outlook on nuclear crisis in Japan

In another sign that U.S. officials differ from their Japanese counterparts on the nuclear crisis unfolding there, U.S. officials have authorized the evacuation of American citizens.

From the Associated Press:

The United States has authorized the first evacuations of Americans out of Japan, taking a tougher stand on the deepening nuclear crisis and warning U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to any part of the country as unpredictable weather and wind conditions risked spreading radioactive contamination.

The AP reports the "authorized departure offers voluntary evacuation to family members and dependents of U.S. personnel in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya and affects some 600 people."

Protests in Lansing

In one of the larger protests at the Michigan Capitol this year, around 3,000 union supporters, school teachers, seniors, students, and others spoke out against bills in the Michigan legislature. The Lansing State Journal reports that 11 people were arrested after a 2 1/2 sit-in in the Capitol. MPRN's Laura Weber described some of the people she saw at the protest this way, "there were big, hulking men in hard hats, business people in suits, and young parents pushing strollers."   One of the more controversial bills, one that gives power to Emergency Financial Managers to end void union contracts, was signed into law yesterday by Governor Snyder. Scott Davis of the Lansing State Journal reported: 

In their biggest show of force yet this year, union members descended on the Capitol in a show of unity to protest several bills moving through the Legislature. It was the latest in a series of union-led protests in recent weeks - and a reflection of the ongoing battle by public worker unions in Wisconsin."It's beautiful," Joe Bowen, a retired automotive worker who traveled to the rally from Saginaw, said of the show of unity. "It sends a message that it's not fair. They are trying to pinch unions."


Michigan's Hoop Dreams

The NCAA men's basketball tournament begins today and three teams in Michigan are hoping to advance.

Michigan State University plays UCLA tonight at 9:15 (TBS); the University of Michigan plays Tennessee tomorrow at 12:30 (truTV); and Oakland University plays Texas tomorrow at noon (CBS).

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It’s time for March Madness, which means the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament begins this week.

Seven Big Ten teams made the cut.

No. 8 seed the University of Michigan will play No. 9 seed Tennessee on Friday. Michigan State University earned a No. 10 seed and will play No. 7 seed UCLA on Thursday.

Oakland University also made the tournament. Oakland will play the Texas Longhorns on Friday.

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The Fennville boys basketball team suffered an unbelievable tragedy last week when their star player, Wes Leonard, died from a heart attack minutes after hitting a game winning shot in overtime.

It was later found that the sixteen year old had an enlarged heart.

Now, the Fennville Blackhawks (20-0) have decided to play on despite their immense sadness.


The Fennville team will play Monday night against Lawrence High in the Class C district playoffs. The game has been moved to Hope College in Holland.

The Sporting News says the game was moved from Lawrence High School to Hope College to accommodate an expected large crowd and large media presence.

The Lawrence High School coach spoke with ESPN about how he expects the Fennville boys team to play. From the Sporting News:

Lawrence coach Curt Meat told ESPN of Monday’s game, “Either they’re going to come out and break down and be terrible, and I’d hate to see that … or they’re going to come out and they’re going to have angels on their shoulders and really light it up.”

Drew Sharp has an opinion piece in today's Detroit Free Press. He quoted a statement from Fennville superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer talking about Lawrence High School decision to change the venue:

"They have been more than gracious and accommodating in making this decision. By doing so, they are relinquishing home-court advantage. We also recognize that Lawrence has been cast in an unenviable position and must feel as if the world will be rooting against them. Rather than focusing on the outcome of Monday's game, our joint goal is to make it a fitting tribute to the memory of Wes Leonard."

Wes Leonard’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday morning at Holland's Christ Memorial Church.

Visitation is today from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Fennville United Methodist Church.

Here's a video from WMMT TV in Grand Rapids:

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The Associated Press and USAToday are reporting that a 16 year old Fennville student died last night after making a game-making layup. From the AP:

The Fennville Schools superintendent says the basketball player who died last night after making a game-winning shot was "the quintessential all-American kid."

It's still not clear what caused the death of 16-year-old Wes Leonard, who collapsed on the court after making a last-second layup in Fenville's 57-55 win over Bridgman. The victory capped Fenville's undefeated season.

Leonard fell to the ground after teammates and fans rushed the court. Rescuers performed CPR, but he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

The junior was also the quarterback of the school's football team.

Grief counselors are on hand at the school today.

Jeramey Jannene / Flickr

Eastern Michigan University had a very strong basketball team in 1996.

The Eagles were so good they stunned the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 75-60.

They had nation’s second-leading scorer - and their program listed his height at 5-foot-8 inches.

This, I had to see. 

I watched Earl Boykins and his teammates torch Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Ball State.

Pistons at the Palace of Aubrun Hills
Kevin Ward

There's been a lot of talk about who might buy the Detroit Pistons.   Several people with close ties to Detroit have been said to be considering paying as much as a half billion dollars for the NBA franchise.   But there's word now that Middle Eastern investors may be in the mix.

Here's the story from The National of Abu Dhabi:

Investment groups in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar are in separate discussions to buy the Detroit Pistons basketball team, which has been valued at close to US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion).